Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

If Jewfish Key separated from Longboat Key, what then?

A feasibility study details the challenges that de-annexation of Jewfish Key would present ahead of Town Commission meeting.

Boaters anchor near Jewfish Key.
Boaters anchor near Jewfish Key.
File image
  • Longboat Key
  • News
  • Share

The results of the feasibility study are in — the de-annexation of Jewfish Key would present substantial challenges, and town staff recommends rejection of the petition. 

On June 3, the Longboat Key Town Commission will consider the petition, which was for the voluntary contraction of Jewfish Key. 

Recently, town commissioners received information packets regarding the feasibility study required to be completed within six months of the town receiving the contraction petition. Town commissioners will review the materials before the public meeting on June 3.

In January, the homeowners association for the island, the Jewfish Key Preservation Association, submitted a petition to the town that stated more than 15% of the registered voters on the island voted in favor of submitting the petition to have Jewfish Key removed from the town of Longboat Key. 

If that were to happen, Jewfish Key would become a part of unincorporated Manatee County. 

That change raised concerns for many north-end residents, and many of the homeowners associations on the north end — like Bayou Hammock, Longbeach Village and Land’s End — submitted petitions to the town against the contraction, or de-annexation. Impacts from short-term rentals, different zoning considerations and environmental issues were among the top concerns voiced by residents. 

Photo by Brad Meece

The staff memo in the June 3 agenda packet stated that Jewfish Key was ineligible for contraction for various reasons.

First, the submitted petition for contraction failed to meet the 15% resident signature threshold, since there were only three registered voters on Jewfish Key, according to the Manatee Supervisor of Elections. The agenda packet states that none of the qualified voters signed the resolution. 

It's also the town staff's opinion that the contraction of Jewfish Key would create an enclave, or an unincorporated area surrounded by another municipality. In that regard, Jewfish Key would meet the criteria for annexation and be ineligible for contraction. 

The memo also detailed some scenarios with various town departments, which outlined how things would change if Jewfish Key became a part of Manatee County. 

Short-term rentals

The town of Longboat Key restricts residential properties from being rented for fewer than 30 days. That means that residential property owners could choose to rent out their properties through platforms like Airbnb or Vrbo, but for a minimum of 30 days. 

According to the memo sent by Town Manager Howard Tipton, Manatee County does not have restrictions for tourism uses in residential properties, meaning residential properties could be rented for any length of time. 

“If Jewfish Key is granted contraction from the Town and became a part of unincorporated Manatee county, this difference, in allowances for tourism and residential uses, may result in a significant change in character in a location with both immediate proximity and potential impact to a longstanding residential area of the town,” the memo states. 


Longboat Key is a low-density community, and the Charter and Comprehensive Plan restrict growth and density. To increase the allotted density limits on a given parcel, a referendum approval would be required. 

However, Manatee County lacks similar density restrictions, according to the memo. That said, if Jewfish Key were to become a part of unincorporated Manatee County, that could open the door to developing the island with more homes, or even for commercial use. 

Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge touched on this during an April 30 joint meeting with Longboat Key. He said that Manatee County is “very pro-property rights” and, unlike a homeowners association, would not restrict zoning as such. 

“The County’s not an HOA … we don’t run an HOA and our land-use restrictions are not as strict as yours (Longboat Key). So if you have concerns about what the island will become, you should be concerned. I am,” Van Ostenbridge said at the meeting. “If it ends up in just the county, I’m concerned about the looseness of the land-use restrictions.” 

Public Works

Not much would change in terms of Public Works for Jewfish Key. 

That’s because the island uses wells for water and septic tanks for sewage. Septic tanks are used to treat wastewater and protect groundwater quality. Household waste enters the septic tanks and is then separated and treated. The waste is then discharged into a drain field, a set of pipes that lead below ground. 

Due to this system, Longboat Key Public Works has not provided services to Jewfish Key, and contraction would not have much impact on the department. 

Fire Rescue & Police

Currently, the town’s fire rescue department “provides consolidated fire and emergency medical response services that are not provided by a single agency in Manatee County,” according to the staff memo from Tipton.

The staff memo also states that the town’s fire chief and fire marshal have concerns about fire risks on Jewfish Key due to limited water sources on the island. Concerns include the possibility of fire spreading on the island and embers being carried through the air and landing on other areas. 

If Jewfish Key were to become a part of unincorporated Manatee County, there would be complications in terms of who would provide fire rescue services, and “Manatee County does not provide fire and rescue services,” the memo states. 

A sandbar near Jewfish Key has become a popular spot for boaters, particularly during weekends.
Courtesy image

In that case, Manatee County would likely have medical jurisdiction on Jewfish Key, but the Longboat Key Fire Rescue Department would still respond to fire calls due to existing mutual aid agreements with neighboring jurisdictions. 

Similarly, the Longboat Key Police Department would most likely be called to assist the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office for calls on Jewfish Key as a part of mutual aid agreements. But the memo says that situation would decrease officer availability on the Longboat Key mainland depending on the nature of calls on Jewfish Key. 

Additionally, the Longboat Key Police Department expressed concern about the possibility of short-term rentals on Jewfish Key if the island is de-annexed from Longboat Key. The memo states that the police department would expect those circumstances to lead to a rise in partying. 

The town’s police department would continue to enforce noise complaints on the water within Longboat Key limits but, if Jewfish Key were de-annexed, the police department would not be able to enforce the town’s noise ordinances on Jewfish Key. Those noise complaints coming from Jewfish Key would then be handled by Manatee County. 



Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.

Latest News